Business of Baseball Report

Bud Selig Seeks Tougher Penalties for Steroid Abuse

Leave it to Bud as he tries to take it to the union in any way possible. Steroids and sports are still a hot button, and Selig has a window of opportunity to get tougher penalties set up before Congress loses interest in the subject. Rather than the current 10/30/60 day penalty (first offense/second/third), Selig wants 50/100/life. He’s also seeking a ban on amphetamines and the establishment of an independent agency to administer the program.

For the time being, the player’s union is playing ball. Union head Donald Fehr has sent Bud Selig a letter stating that he looks forward to discussing the items that he raised, but talks have yet to be announced.

Twins Stadium Decision Delayed

A day after the Twins/Hennepin County stadium deal was announced, the county held public hearings on the subject. It was par for the course as opponents and supporters both came out to have their moment. While the measures I talked about last week are likely to pass, the biggest complaint is that the public won’t be able to make the ultimate decision and this led to a postponement of the vote. A vote to authorize the county to seek legislative permission for the sales tax hike was expected on Tuesday, but as this was going to press, nothing had been announced.

For those wanting more details, the Business of Baseball website has a section on the current stadium proposal. It includes the plan and photos of the proposed site.

Marlins Stadium Deal on Last Leg

Easy passage of the Marlins’ sales tax subsidy by the Florida House or Representatives appears to be a hollow victory. The measure is currently stuck in the Senate and because it hasn’t been approved by the Budget Committee, it would require a two-thirds vote for passage. The last scheduled day of the current session is Friday, and it appears that the chance of it even seeing a vote by then is somewhere between slim and none.

It’ll be interesting to see what Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins’ owner, does next. As is evident with the Twins stadium situation, these things have a tendency to hang around for years. His next step will probably to meet with Las Vegas again, or maybe another baseball hungry location such as Portland, Oregon to try to sway more votes in the Florida Legislature his way.

Nationals Hit the Television

DirecTV announced late last week that they’ll air 135 Washington Nationals regular season games. The games are being produced by the newly created Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN). The major snag in all of this is the lingering Comcast lawsuit that I discussed in last week’s report. While the Comcast suit deals with television rights for the Baltimore Orioles, there’s still the residual effect on all aspects of the MASN. Prospective owners for the Nationals are still leery of moving forward before the entire mess is resolved.

Private Financing on the Table in D.C.

District of Columbia (D.C.) Mayor Anthony Williams recently sent the D.C. council a bill that would incorporate recent private financing proposals for the Nationals’ new waterfront ballpark. If you remember way back in December, D.C. council chairwoman Linda Cropp was able to put the entire Expos relocation in doubt when she added a late night amendment into the stadium deal requiring public funding. She backed off the following week with the condition that D.C would at least try to find public financing, and this appears to be the ultimate framework to attempt to save D.C. some money.

The major items in the bill include giving the mayor the authority to lower or raise the gross receipts tax depending on whether the city is current on its debt. Also in the bill is a distinct split of the ballpark area into the area where the ballpark will eventually built and the surrounding area. Tax revenues from the stadium will go towards paying down the debt on the stadium, while the tax revenue from the surrounding area will go into a community benefit fund. Without this provision, the tax revenue would be commingled and there would be a double claim on the funds. And in the event there’s excess ballpark tax revenue (after debt service and reserve obligations are met), the cash would go into a development fund for the South Capitol Street area and then into the community benefit fund.

While the legislation doesn’t list any specific private financing sources, the mayor plans on outlining his goals later this week.

Orioles on Top of AL East, but Attendance is Lacking

The Baltimore Orioles are the hottest team in the American League East, yet they’ve had a rough time putting fans in the seats. It’s hard to believe the Nationals’ presence is having that much of an impact on attendance with the team playing so well, but Monday’s game at Camden Yards drew a record low 15,641 fans. To make matters worse, this is the third time this season the team has set a record for having a low turnout.

Maybe it’s the weekday night games or the weather, because overall attendance, while not spectacular, isn’t that bad. The Orioles are right near the middle at fourteenth in the league with an average attendance that’s just over 31,000.

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